Unleash Your Inner Demon
The original Darkness was a violent, comic book-inspired Mafia tale with a love story at its core, which saw players step into the shoes of Jackie Estacado, a mobster betrayed by his boss and then saw his childhood sweetheart murdered in front of him. Filled with rage and possessed by a demonic force called The Darkness, his desire to avenge her murder saw Jackie give himself over to the evil inside him in return for a range of deadly supernatural abilities.
In the years since, Jackie has risen from hitman to crime boss while managing to keep a lid on the unholy powers that once aided but also threatened to consume him. Nothing good ever lasts forever though. The Darkness II, out now on PlayStation 3, Xbox 360 and PC, kicks off with a brutal encounter with a shadowy organisation known as The Brotherhood, which sets in motion a full-scale mob war and reawakens The Darkness, leaving Jackie in way over his head once again.
The Darkness II's single player campaign offers around eight to ten hours of gruesomely satisfying action as players simultaneously wield a range of traditional guns and otherworldly powers in a bid to fend off enemies intent on acquiring The Darkness for their own evil purposes. Assault rifles and SMGs are best for ranged combat, while The Darkness is great for getting up close and personal. It's unleashed with two tentacle-like 'Demon Arms' capable of grabbing or slashing objects and foes, but can only be used when in shadow, meaning players need to destroy power-sapping light sources such as streetlights and generators in the world around them, and torches, flashbangs and vehicle headlights used by enemies against them.
With the left arm players can yank off a car door and use it as a bullet shield before throwing it at enemies, for example, or pick up stray pipes to use as javelins, or hurl explosive propane tanks. With the right arm, enemies and obstacles can be violently executed by being cut in half, decapitated, or worse. All of this works in tandem with a neat upgrade system which sees players gain 'Darkness Essence' for each kill, a currency that can be spent on extra powers such as the ability to shoot through walls, stun enemies with locust swarms, or even summon miniature black holes.
The Darkness II may be a violent shooter but, like its predecessor, it features a compelling character-driven tale. A love story that reaches beyond the grave, Jackie's solely motivated by a desire to see his dead girlfriend rest in peace so that he can too. Their relationship is a central theme in what's part mob drama, part supernatural revenge romance, and the game features multiple endings, one of which is genuinely fascinating. This is no simple blastathon, then, but a game with some depth.
The Darkness II also features a narrative co-operative game mode that runs parallel to the single player story and supports up to four players. Called Vendettas and designed as a team-focused, mission based experience, it focuses on a group of mercenaries who do dirty work for Jackie, and explores the role they play in his bid to defeat the Brotherhood. Each of the characters has a unique combat style based on Darkness-powered weapons, and while the story largely consists of slaying armies of thugs, it takes players to new environments and culminates in a boss battle that's more impressive than any other in the single player campaign.
Like the original Darkness, the sequel is a stylish, brutal shooter wrapped in a great story. It's not perfect, but it offers highly polished and satisfying action, over-the-top gore, cool graphic novel-style visuals and clever storytelling that comfortably elevate it beyond the average first person shooter.
- Darkness powers are great fun.
- Touching plot and believable characters.
- Eye-popping graphic novel art style.
- Boss design could be stronger.
- Guns are satisfying, but the selection is limited.
- Too gory for the faint hearted.